1. Lessons Learned on the Road to 31

    I turned 31 last week!

    I can’t believe it. 30 flew by in a flash.

    I’m not a big birthday party person. I celebrated simply and sweetly. Quality time with family and friends, a few good cocktails, and catching up on errands, doctor’s appointments, and home improvements. Glamorous, right?

    Birthdays encourage me to reflect. This year broke me open in many ways: a move, health challenges, and big business successes and failures. This particular birthday really had me thinking because it also marked the end of a milestone year.

    To celebrate the occasion, I wanted to do something a little different than my usual blogs.

    Today I want to share with you important lessons learned on the road to 31:

    1. Trust your gut. Listen to your intuition. Your emotions are data, not bullsh*t.
    2. Being sensitive is your biggest source of strength. Use that gift daily.
    3. Don’t let external forces define what success means to you. The most important opinion is the one you hold of yourself.
    4. Self-compassion isn’t lazy or “letting yourself off the hook”. It’s what releases you from fear and allows you to take action.
    5. Allow other people to help you. Accept compliments with grace, instead of pushing them away
    6. That thing you’re afraid to say, write, or do? Yeah, that’s the thing you MUST say, write, or do.
    7. Find what gets you into flow, and design your days to optimize what helps you be your best.
    8. You only have to be brave five seconds at a time.
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  2. How to Stop Your Strengths from Becoming Weaknesses

    Given the choice, most people try to play to their strengths. A naturally athletic child will sign up for lots of sports teams; a friendly, outgoing college student who loves being surrounded by people will likely prefer a career in teaching over a job in IT.

    For the past 20 years, this philosophy—strengths-based theory—has dominated everything from career development and leadership to education and psychology. But research suggests that relying too much on our strengths can lead to major blind spots.

    A client who I work with as a career coach, “James,” is a great example of a person who can take his strengths too far. Like many managers, James is an expert problem-solver. In every personality assessment he’s ever taken, being analytical is a quality that comes forth as his dominant strength.

    But at times, James’ tendency to rely on logic in every situation, no matter the context, becomes a roadblock. Type A to a fault, he values structure and planning above all else, which is hard to come by in the fast-paced tech company he works for. And so he can get tripped up when he needs to respond quickly to change, and perhaps alter his previous plans. He becomes paralyzed because he feels out of control. And so his problem-solving strength becomes a handicap.

    Too much of a good thing

    In this sense, we’re all a bit like Wonder Woman. The DC comics superhero is masterful warrior because she grows up on the all-female Paradise Island.

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  3. 3 Ways to Trick Your Brain Into Being More Productive

    The summer slowdown is upon us. Right now you may feel a little unmotivated, to say the least. Unless you’re one of those lucky people who works from the beach, it can be hard to concentrate on the task at hand during the summer months.

    You may be dreaming of your vacation and time off, but if there’s still work to do then you need to find a way to kick your motivation into high gear — fast.

    The truth is, if you keep waiting for inspiration to strike, you’ll be waiting forever. Procrastination can be difficult to overcome, but it all starts with tiny steps that help you take action, then building off that momentum to propel you forward.

    If you’re stuck in the summer slump, try one of these productivity tricks to get your head back in the game and get things done:

    Identify exactly what’s stopping you.

    When you attempt to get started on something, what causes you to give up? Pay attention to the reasons why you procrastinate. By playing the observer, you can spot where your excuses or self-doubt may be tripping you up.

    Work in sprints.

    In software development, a sprint is a burst of focused, short-term effort on a single feature. You can take a note out of the Agile playbook and apply it to your own work. Time-bounding helps you leverage the power of small wins. By making your goals concrete and measurable, you’ll be able to appreciate and be motivated by your progress.

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  4. The Surprising Truth About Finding Your Passion

    Like many Millennials, I was told I could become whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. Before the age of ten I cycled through dreams of acting, singing, and becoming a veterinary pharmacist (true story).

    Trying to find my passion was a near-obsession that followed me into adulthood. Ironically, all along I ignored what was naturally good at, including my knack for empathy, my love for writing, and an incurable curiosity about human behavior.

    They say hindsight is 20/20, so today I clearly see how these strengths shaped my career. But for a long time, I searched for my passion as if it was a lost treasure chest that I simply needed a map to find.

    Why Finding Your Passion Is a Myth

    Despite what we’re told, passion is something that unfolds over time. It’s discovered through life experiences. Your “dream job” isn’t an exact destination, either. It’s constantly evolving. The ideal career when you’re in your early 30s may eventually become a poor fit, even by the time you turn 40.

    So what do you do if you have no idea what your passion or life calling is?

    First, don’t panic. Finding your purpose doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a messy, iterative undertaking that takes time, patience, and a healthy dose of self-reflection. You’ll get there, but you have to start by taking small steps.

    That starts by asking yourself some key questions about how your past experiences, struggles, and triumphs have shaped you.

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  5. Proven Ways To Do Less And Be More Productive

    You start the workday off with the best intentions, hopeful that you’ll finally be able to tackle a difficult project that’s been looming over your head. But by mid-afternoon you’re stressed, tired, and can’t seem to focus on much of anything — let alone dive into work that requires intense concentration.

    That big project? It’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

    If you’ve found yourself in this self-defeating cycle, you’re certainly not alone. It can seem nearly impossible to make time for cognitively demanding tasks, what author Cal Newport calls deep work.

    How do some people make room for creativity even with a crazy busy schedule while others get stuck in brain fog and procrastination?

    Doing less, not more, is the secret to achieving mental clarity so that your creativity can thrive. Instead of adding more goals to your plate, you have to limit inputs coming at you.

    Here are a few small changes that can yield big results.

    1. Limit the energy drain of constant updates

    Social media is like a black hole that sucks you in with endless updates, wasting your time and zapping your focus. Use a tool to quiet your news feed or remove it all together.

    This will allow you uninterrupted serenity to think and create – two essential elements for happiness at work. You’ll be amazed by how much you can accomplish and how much better you’ll feel without the deluge of posts cluttering your screen (and mind).

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  6. Try This Easy Trick to Improve Your Reputation at Work

    How many times have you heard the phrase “You are what you eat”? The idea behind this now-infamous diet mantra is that in order to be fit and healthy, you have to eat nutritious food. The take-home message? Your actions have direct ramifications for your body and your mind.

    Now, consider this spin: “You are what you say.” Fair or not, what you communicate to others can lead others to make assumptions about your character–a concept called spontaneous trait inference.

    This psychological phenomenon holds that people are perceived as possessing traits they describe in others. Several experiments have shown that people can associate traits with others mindlessly without logical rationale.

    Think of it this way: the more you talk about a certain trait– even if you’re describing another person and not yourself–the more salient and memorable that trait becomes in the other person’s mind. Through an associative process in the brain, they start to think of you coupled with that trait (kind of like when you hear “zebra,” you may think “stripes”).

    Spontaneous trait inference is crucial to keep in mind at the office for the sake of both your current job and your career prospects. Here’s how to use this concept to boost your reputation, influence and become exceptionally more likable in the process:

    No Gossip – No Exceptions

    As if you needed another reason to keep the chitchat in check, spontaneous trait inference means that every time you share something negative about someone, the person you’re blathering to might start thinking of you as the one characterized by that trait.

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